The Gardening Diva
Never be too busy to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.


Going Grassless
 By MG Calla Victoria

     Hello all of my fellow gardening enthusiasts! As spring has finally sprung and the garden is coming back alive, and you have taken the covers off the tender vegetation; just before you go high tailing it to your favorite plant sales and nurseries, put together a game plant and that will quale a lot of Impulse shopping.

     First take a slow stroll through your garden. Note what did not work during the winter, pockets of ugliness, and what needs to be replaced. From the “pockets of ugliness” you noticed during the winter, you now know that you will need some evergreen foundation shrubs like camellias, jasmine, or evergreen trees there so that your garden is lovely year around. Then take inventory of what is already in your backyard and how you plan to build on that. Jot down your plan and plant selections based on your needs and then go shopping with a plan, a list, and a purpose.

      Well dear friends I have decided to go grassless! That’s right I have sworn off grass in my backyard. Who really needs it and why do I have to keep paying someone to cut it when I could have more area to plant something interesting. Grassless backyards are fast becoming the rage because of minimal maintenance required, water conservation, and contrary to what you might think grassless yards can be quite lush as you can see from the image above. In my front yard I will be replacing the St. Augustine grass with dwarf mondo grass. It is a lovely deep green color and stays that way year round and only grows a couple of inches tall, so no cutting is required and it always looks like a lush green carpet.

     But back to my massive backyard which is 60ft by 90ft. In order to get rid of the existing grass there  I had two choices. First I could have someone come over with a sod cutter and remove all of the grass which was #1 costly, and #2 after all of the sod was gone I would then be on a time clock as to getting plants in the ground before the grass started growing again. The second choice was sheeting mulching which was the suggestion of one of the garden group members on New Orleans Plant and Swap, a Facebook gardening group I joined and love. Well I decided to do the  sheet mulching.

     The process of sheet mulching entails covering the grass with cardboard. The cardboard blocks the grass from getting sun thereby thwarting the grass’ ability to photosynthesize thus causing the grass to die. I made many trips to the back lots of dollar stores to get boxes, and it was not until I began this process that I realized how large my backyard really was. After many many trips to dollars stores all of the grass was finally covered. Then the cardboard was covered with leaf mulching making the process not look too sloppy and keep the cardboard in place. So now I needed leaves, lots of leaves! I contacted a dear friend of mine who lives on an oak tree lined street and she would inform me when the landscapers were out raking leaves, so I was out scavenging bags of leaves.  Even though this process is a little more time consuming, I like the fact that now I can work at my own pace as with reference to planting out my new grassless garden. I can plant a small area, and the rest of the yard is just covered with mulch. Another benefit of this technique is that you can place your plant material where you think you want them and get a little preview of you garden before it is actually planted. Also when the cardboard and leaves breakdown, they become compost making your soil even richer.

     The first step now is to put my garden design on paper and lay out the pathways through my garden. Then I will place my existing plant material in various locations to see what works, some of which has to be moved as they have outgrown there current locations. I want to add to my existing orchard, shade garden and veggie garden. I will deal with privacy issues by strategically planting trees and climbing vines. And everything will be planted adding some slow-release fertilizer, a pre-emergent weed killer, soaker hoses for irrigation, and solar lighting.  I will keep you guys posted on the progress.

     This article appeared in the March 12, 2016 edition of Data News Weekly.

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Example of sheet mulching

             Cardboard sheeting  covered with leaves

              My yard during sheet the mulching process

  My yard as leaves are laid over the cardboard as I
prepare for planting.

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